DALLAS — Voters in North Little Rock, Ark., will decide whether to raise the city’s sales tax rate by up to 1% at a special election set for Nov. 8.
The vote was called at a special session of the City Council on Sept. 16, just three days after voters in Little Rock approved a 1% increase in that city’s sales tax rate.
North Little Rock is located across the Arkansas River from Little Rock, the state capital. It has 62,300 residents and no outstanding rated debt.
The tax hike plan will be on the ballot in two parts. A 0.5% temporary tax dedicated to financing capital improvements would expire in 2017, but a 0.5% increase split equally between operations and capital improvements would be permanent.
The extra 1% would generate a total of $15.5 million a year, the city said.
North Little Rock currently levies a 1% sales tax on top of Arkansas’ 6% sales tax and Pulaski County’s 1% levy. If voters approve both increases, the total sales tax within the city limits would be 9%.
Mayor Patrick Hays said the election had to be in November or the city probably would have had to wait until 2013.
He said state law requires municipal elections to be called at least 50 days in advance, and must be on the second Tuesday of the month. If it were not held then, the next available date would be Dec. 13, during the Christmas shopping season.
With the school district seeking a property tax increase vote in the spring, primaries, and a presidential election in 2012, Hays said, an election next year probably would not be possible. “We had to move pretty quickly,” he said. “The needs far outweigh the negatives associated with trying to act quickly.”
Most of the capital improvement portion would be devoted to roads, bridges and other infrastructure needs, Hays said, but $20 million would finance the acquisition of 200 acres of land for a business park.
“It could be the new fairgrounds, or the expansion for an existing business,” he said. “We’ve got some pretty good real estate for sale and we ought to acquire it.”
The resolutions adopted by the council, which do not have the legal authority of ordinances, calls for spending at least $4 million a year for five years on jobs and business park development.
“We have some significant needs in this city,” Hays said. “These tax increases will be paying for a whole lot of really good things this community needs. The voters will have two chances to swing for a home run for North Little Rock. That’s what I am asking the voters to do.”
The measures also allocate $1 million a year for streets and roads, $1 million a year on parks projects and equipment, and $500,000 a year for street and sidewalk projects in each of the city’s four wards.
Hays said the additional revenue will pay for building a fire station and hiring 13 firefighters and 10 police officers. North Little Rock must also upgrade its police and fire radio system to be compatible with a new county-wide emergency communications network financed with Little Rock’s recently enacted sales tax hike.